June 28, 2014 12:02 pm

Travel from the Bronx to the Stars with Madame Saturn and Neil deGrasse Tyson

Natural color image of Saturn taken by Cassini, Oct. 10, 2013. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Cornell

Saturn, in natural color, as the human eye would see it. A mosaic of 36 images taken by Cassini on Oct. 10, 2013. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Cornell

If you’re not from a major city, you might not understand what it’s like the first time you go to a planetarium and see a sky full of stars.

To a city kid, the nighttime sky is empty, the glow from the urban sprawl drowning out all but the brightest stars, which, in all likelihood, aren’t even stars at all.

But then, if you’re lucky, you take a trip to the local planetarium.

If you’re from New York City, that planetarium just happens to be the Hayden Planetarium.

We have heard, on StarTalk Radio, guest after guest describe how they gazed in wonder at the universe as it was projected on a dome above their heads and fell in love. Whoopi Goldberg, Lawrence Fishburne, and yes, even Neil deGrasse Tyson, who would grow up to eventually become the Hayden’s director.

This Sunday, you will hear the story of another kid from the Bronx who discovered the stars at the Hayden Planetarium and went on to explore the universe. More than just explore it: to bring it back to the rest of us here on planet Earth in vibrant, thrilling photographs, like the one shown above.

The photograph was taken by the Cassini spacecraft, and that kid from the Bronx is Dr. Carolyn Porco, the leader of the Cassini Imaging Science Team, who Neil likes to refer to as “Madame Saturn.” On June 30th, Cassini will celebrate 10 years of exploring Saturn, its rings, and its moons. It has discovered icy eruptions on Enceladus, rivers and lakes of methane on Titan, and hurricanes raging at Saturn’s poles. Its probe, Huygens, landed on Titan, the first time humanity landed on a moon in the outer solar system.

But, as you’ll find out in Part 1 of Neil’s interview with Dr. Porco, Cassini is just the most recent chapter in a life that started out searching for the meaning of existence and includes both chopping wood with an ax in Boulder, Colorado and eventually working with Carl Sagan on the Voyager missions.

“I was a seeker… and I thought the answer to the question of the meaning of life lay in the universe.”

Join us this Sunday for a surprisingly spiritual journey that started in the Bronx and has taken humanity further than it has ever gone before.

Listen to Madame Saturn: A Conversation with Carolyn Porco (Part 1), hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson with comic co-host Chuck Nice, Sunday, June 29 at 7:00 PM ET on our website and on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, TuneIn and more.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!

–Jeffrey Simons

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